More on Sinatra
To the Editor:
It takes a while for COMMENTARY to reach me in Japan, but I hope it is not too late to express my sincere thanks to Terry Teachout for his excellent article on Frank Sinatra [“Taking Sinatra Seriously,” September 1997], which is objective, informative, and extremely well-balanced. This is the first piece I have seen on Sinatra in a top-flight intellectual magazine.
I have only one suggestion: expand the discography a bit. Let me offer some examples myself, starting with the early years. Since long-play (LP) records were the only ones available for most of Sinatra’s career and make up the majority of my own collection, I have arranged the list by label and identified the albums by LP number. Many or most of these have been subsequently issued on CD’s.
RCA Victor: The Tommy Dorsey-Frank Sinatra Sessions, Volumes 1 to 3 (RCA CPL2-4334-4336) includes on six records all 84 songs that Sinatra did with Tommy Dorsey between February 1, 1940 and July 2, 1942. In addition to the tender and gentle voice of the young Sinatra, one can, of course, hear Dorsey’s incredibly smooth and beautiful trombone.
Columbia: The Voice: The Columbia Years 1943-1952 (C6X 40343) contains 72 songs on six records that collect the cream of Sinatra’s time with Columbia, including one of Sinatra’s most poignant offerings, “Why Try to Change Me Now?,” his last recording for Columbia on September 17, 1952. This set also has the added feature of commentary by some of the leaders of the music and film world.
Capitol: I fully agree with Mr. Teachout that Sinatra reached his peak in the studio albums he made for Capitol in the 1950’s, and with his selection of Sinatra’s core legacy. I would only suggest that a few more love songs—happy love songs—be included.
Songs for Young Lovers (Capitol CDP 7 484702) contains some of the finest recordings ever made of some very fine standards: Rodgers and Hart’s “My Funny Valentine” and “Little Girl Blue”; the Gershwins’ “A Foggy Day” and “They Can’t Take That Away from Me”; and Cole Porter’s “I Get a Kick Out of You.” Recorded with Nelson Riddle on November 5 and 6, 1953, this was Sinatra’s first LP album for Capitol, and is now available on CD with another early Capitol album, Swing Easy from 1954.
This Is Sinatra (Capitol T-768) and This Is Sinatra, Volume 2 (Capitol W-982), 1954 and 1955, contain the beautiful “Three Coins in the Fountain”; the huge hit “Young at Heart”; the very lovely “You’ll Always Be the One I Love,” “Time After Time,” and “It’s the Same Old Dream” (repeats of his excellent recordings for Columbia); plus Sinatra’s theme song, “Put Your Dreams Away,” also recorded earlier for Columbia.
Sinatra Sings of Love and Things (Capitol/EMI ED26 01781) is a compilation of songs originally issued as singles between 1957 and 1962, including “The Nearness of You” (superior to his 1947 recording of the same song), “The Moon Was Yellow,” “I Love Paris,” “Monique,” “Love Looks So Well on You,” “Sentimental Baby,” and “Something Wonderful Happens in Summer.” If forced to pick my all-time favorite Sinatra album of love songs, I would choose this one and Songs for Young Lovers (a tie!).
Tell Her You Love Her (Capitol DT 1919) contains the warm title song, plus a whole host of outstanding standards.
Reprise: Sinatra’s Sinatra (Reprise CD FS2-1010) contains twelve of Sinatra’s own personal favorites, most of which were recorded previously for Capitol and Columbia. The only exception is one of Sinatra’s all-time greats: “Call Me Irresponsible,” words by Sammy Cahn, music by Jimmy Van Heusen (1963). The album would be worth having for this song alone.
Although Sinatra’s voice began to show inevitable decline by the late 1960’s, he produced some of his most moving recordings during this period. Cycles (Reprise FS 1027), an album containing certain songs of loss and defeat, offers a good representation.
In closing, let me say with pleasure that among the many good reasons I read COMMENTARY, perhaps the main one is Terry Teachout’s interesting, highly educational, and, where appropriate, politically incorrect articles on a wide variety of musical subjects.
Sagamihara City, Japan